Less than half of the 48 elementary school kids who sat in on my “writer/blogger” Career Day session recognized the photo of a manual typewriter, the writing tool I used in 1988 for “Basic Writing” – Medill School of Journalism’s freshman weed-out course for journalism majors.
A few of them had Instagram accounts. Many of them knew they were too young to be on Facebook, but a few of them had been promised an account for future birthdays. They all recognized my iPad and talked about typing on laptops.
Yet all of them were still thinking of writers in the more traditional sense – authors of books or writers of magazine or newspaper articles. Very few of them were thinking about writers in terms of web content, scripts for TV & movies, song lyrics, etc. The idea of writing a book or writing for a newspaper, both of which I have done, did not easily translate into the 21st century despite having been born into a fast-moving tech world.
My father had me keep a journal when I was young. I read the first entry from my yellow notebook to each Career Day group – Oct 13, 1978. It was journaling in the pre-blog decades – pencil and paper. Almost 30 years later, I’m still journaling – on paper and onto the internet.
I’m a parent now, and I am wondering what habits, skills, and values I am instilling and emphasizing in our day-to-day chaos that will serve my children well in the decades to come. It’s not just about jobs but about passions and the sweet spot when passions and vocation collide. My parents are immigrants, and I am the product of that pragmatism. Anderson Cooper could chase after his bliss. My job was to succeed. My parents didn’t leave a developing country on the verge of martial law so that I could follow my bliss. Bliss was a vocabulary word. My future depended on education and a job. The goal was to develop skills whether or not they were my gifts.
But life as the adult child of immigrants in this century continues to be that of navigating shifting sand. The kids at Career Day will most likely never know what a pension is, and who knows what will happen to Social Security. Kids today have parents who in earlier years may have expected companies and employees to live out loyalty in terms of job security instead of a punch card or plastic key fob for points. The job market, and the idea of a career continues to develop and change. It used to be who you knew. Now we add a touch of LinkedIn and Career.com. I thought I was ready, but I’m barely ready myself. I feel behind, and if I’m behind where are my kids?
So it got me thinking about Career Day and how the format has remained the same, but the careers and the idea of presenting options may have to change with the times as well as how we have conversations at dinner about school, grades, favorite subjects and “what do you want to do when you grow up?”.
That last question is a tough one because sometimes I feel like I’m still figuring that one out.